The False Hope of “Easy”

Luke 14:25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. 34 “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

 The False Hope of “Easy”

When does the mission get easy?  When does community get easy?  When does following Jesus get easy? How much do I need to know in order for this life of faith to become a cake-walk of faith? Which expensive leadership conference do I need to attend in order to make things go smoothly in my faith community? When will our budget be big enough that we don’t have to worry about money anymore? Wow. I really don’t know.  I am not the sharpest pencil in the box, but I have read the Bible a few times, and I just can’t see any evidence that any of this ever gets easy no matter how many neatly-marketed leadership conferences you attend or how many abbreviations you choose to list before or after your name.  I don’t even know what a “big enough” budget is.  As the budget grows, so does the mission if we’re taking the mission seriously.  Placing our communal hope in the possibility that any amount of righteousness or competence or dollars will make anything about being obedient to Christ easy seems to me to not only be false hope.  It seems to me to be bad theology.  In fact, linking any idea of “easy” to following Christ is a category mistake.

Faith that is coming to maturity seems to have a deeper embrace of the hardships of life.  Seasoned disciples don’t seem to live in the hope that there will be one easy thing about doing what they are called to do.   They strive to be good at it, not because they expect things to get easy, but because they know that the increasing difficulty of it will require greater and greater competency and personal discipline.  They strive to grow out of habits that make it harder for themselves, but they don’t embrace pie-in-the-sky theologies that doing what we are called to do will one day magically become easy or simple or without cost. Mature believers don’t seem to be fragile people.  Fragility is the fruit of a life at ease. They are salty folk.  They are salty because they are seasoned in the praxis of following Christ into his mission.  Jesus said, “I came to seek and to save the lost.”  He did NOT say, “I came to make the lives of believers easy”.  His yoke is easy, but the mission is not.

In the passage above, Jesus tells us to “count the cost”.  Brothers and sisters, I don’t know what your faith is about, but mine…for today…and as unclear as it might be…is to be with Jesus in the mission of plundering hell and pulling people out.  It seems to me that that will not go uncontested. Let me put some of my theological cards on the table.  I do not believe that Satan is a theological construct designed to explain the presence of bad things in the world. I do not believe that Satan is God’s equal, but I do believe that Satan is very real. I do not claim to understand all of this, but I have seen things with my own eyes that I cannot explain any other way. The landlord of hell is not going to like one bit that we are engaged with Christ as his hands and feet to snatch people away from him or “it”.  And the Bible tells us that that landlord is a “strong man”.  The more committed we are to plundering hell, and the better we get at it, the more ferociously the attacks will come at us – individually and as communities of faith. We have literally stolen souls out of the grasp of Satan, and as near as I can tell, he’s pretty ticked off about it.  If your community is under constant attack, it may not be because you are doing it wrong.  It might be precisely because you are doing it right.

Most conflict in community comes because participants are not in agreement about why we are here.  Conflict arises when we are at cross-purposes.  When a leader comes in to unify people around the mission of Christ as why we are here and not primarily to serve the desires of people who are already here, I promise you that there will be conflict. When the community seeks to gain accountability for the mission, I promise you that Satan will send emissaries into your community to break that apart. Attacks will come from within and without.  Satan’s best weapon is division.  Ever heard the phrase, “Divide and conquer”? When your community is divided, the spirit of something is at work in your midst, and it isn’t the Holy Spirit that is pulling those strings. The evidence of the Holy Spirit is unity of purpose. When the body comes together to do the work of the Kingdom, souls and lives are going to get saved, and THAT is a threat to Satan.  I don’t think that awesome worship services are a threat to Satan at all.  I think that unified communities on fire for the mission of Christ and full of the Holy Spirit are a threat to Satan.  When that kind of community gets together to worship and celebrate saved souls, I think Satan seethes. When that kind of community is at work in the mission, I think Satan panics.

What we are engaged in is war.  It doesn’t involve violence (that’s Satan’s tool, not ours)…but it is war, nonetheless. Our tools are faith and truth and humility and compassion…and those are never easy. So why do we spend so much time trying to make the life of faith easy for people? Faith in what? That’s like outright lying to people. Telling people to believe the Gospel because it will make their life easy? Really?  I don’t think Jesus is using the analogy of the King at war for no reason.  If we’re in this faith, we’re in this war.  And that makes us a threat.  Until the day comes when hell is vacated, to borrow a phrase from my days in another line of work, “The only easy day was yesterday.”  If that isn’t what you and your faith community signed up for, then you and your elders better go and make a deal with Satan and see if you can’t sell out for tranquility and ease.  If you don’t want trouble and problems, then don’t steal his people away from him.  All your community has to do to make their lives easy is to give in and quit the mission.  Just make sure that you know that the deal you’re making is with the devil, because it’s the devil that Jesus is stealing souls away from. One day each is going to claim their own.

We are in the process of doing a little restructuring in our community.  We are doing it because we need to better stand up to trouble that comes our way.  In the midst of a storm, the rudder has to be wired on sturdily. We are structuring for battle, not for Sunday School and Christmas pageants.  We are structuring to deepen the commitment of our community and better prepare disciples for the reality that it will never be easy.  We are structuring to be sure that we are not a haven for the irresponsibility and misbehavior that seems to come at us when we are doing what we are called to do.  Accountability is the enemy of our enemy because it is tied to responsibility.  And THAT is the undoing of the darkness. We are not trying to make this life easy.  But we are trying to make it easier for people to do what they are called, gifted and sent to do.  And there is a huge difference.

Will it ever be easy? I don’t think so. Not on this side of the river.  Telling people it will be easy is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Putting our hope in the possibility that it will ever be easy is false hope.


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